Strange Brouhaha

Friday, November 19, 2004


"We think our software is far more secure than open-source software. It is more secure because we stand behind it, we fixed it, because we built it. Nobody ever knows who built open-source software," he added.

This is something that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said recently.

Every single open-source program that I've ever seen has the author's name attached. Go through freshmeat and look at all the projects--all of the authors are there. Bigger projects have multiple authors, all named.

But he's talking about building, isn't he, not writing. Who built the copy of MS Word that I'm using? Microsoft. Great. Who built the binary copy of vim that I'm using on my Red Hat Enterprise Linux machine? Red Hat. You know, neither of those things actually tells me much. But wait...who built the copy of vim that I'm using on my Solaris system?

I did.

What a stupid, stupid criticism this is. Part of the whole raison d'etre of open source software is precisely that you can modify and build the source YOURSELF. Worried about security? Check out the code! Got a way to do something better? Modify the code and submit it to the project maintainer! Try and do that with Microsoft Word, go ahead.

It's not only stupid, it's meaningless.

As to the first's more secure because you stand behind it? What does that even mean? "Pay no attention to the buffer overflows, we STAND BEHIND this product?" Believe me, I know that software development is no picnic, and it can't be fun to be in charge of the biggest target in the business, but more holes keep popping up all the time and the turnaround time isn't that great.


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